Curriculum reforms in Hong Kong have put more emphasis on play pedagogy juxtaposed with teacher-directed academic learning. Against this background, this study investigated the nature of the play-based learning approach by reviewing Fröbel’s play pedagogy (Spielpädagogik) and comparing it with the policies and practices of the play-based curriculum in Hong Kong. Data collection consisted of observations, interviews, and analyses of curriculum documents. Based on Fröbel’s educational philosophy on Spielpädagogik, policy documents and the results of empirical studies were analyzed and critically compared. The findings showed that Hong Kong’s play-based learning curriculum had some elements in common with Fröbel’s Spielpädagogik; however, the child-initiative (Selbstbestimmung) aspect emphasized in Fröbel’s Spielpädagogik was not commonly observed in Hong Kong’s classrooms because of time constraints and other sociocultural factors. There were also similarities between Fröbel's “play care” (Spielpflege) and teachers’ roles in children’s play advocated by Hong Kong’s curriculum policies. Yet, comparatively, Fröbel’s play care gave clearer directions on teachers’ roles, particularly on how to use language to guide children’s play. The research findings provide clearer insights into how the play-based approach in Hong Kong should move forward, and suggestions for which direction other places advocate play-based approach should take. Copyright © 2023 EECERA.